The Soldiers Mock Jesus
27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
“LET HIM COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS AND WE WILL BELIEVE”
The gospel writers portray the torture of Jesus with words that parallel exactly what was foretold by the prophets. Every detail that was said centuries earlier was fulfilled in Jesus. But God’s people then did not believe. I am struck this morning at the mocking phrase “Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in Him”, while Jesus’ blood flows from his nailed hands and feet. Somehow, I think they would not.
Their mocking, misinformed, unbelieving minds were made up. They did not know that Jesus could indeed call upon angel armies to come and rescue him. They did not know the real power Jesus had to reverse what was happening to Him. And what they truly did not know or understand was that the Love Jesus had for them and the rest of humanity was what held Him passionately to the cross. It wasn’t the ropes and nails through his body that held him there, it was His extreme, relentless, unconditional Love for you and for me. God’s love, demonstrated in His Son, held Jesus firmly and resolutely in place until the debt for our sin was paid in full. This is what led Jesus to say from the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” They know not. Let that sink in.
The word crucifixion was not the word at the time. This act of torture was so cruel and unimaginable that there was not a word for in language at that time. The word “crucifixion” was invented in the Latin later to describe the torturous act and extreme pain of being bound and nailed to a cross. This form of punishment was also meant to totally dehumanize and humiliate the criminal.
First, the soldiers disrobed Jesus and dressed Him in an old “soldier’s cloak.” Imagine attiring the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) in a discarded military uniform! Matthew described the robe as scarlet, while Mark used the word purple. There is no contradiction; “reddishpurple” would be a good description of an old faded garment. Imagine how our Lord must have felt when this robe was thrown on His bleeding body.
A king must have a crown, so they wove together the thorny twigs of a plant and pushed it on His head. They gave Him a reed as a scepter, and then bowed before Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They repeated this mock homage not realizing that the One they were mocking was indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Then they did something that no subject would ever do to his king: They spat on Him and hit Him with the reed. While some of the soldiers were bowing before Him, others were hitting Him on the head or spitting on Him (Isa. 50:6). Jesus took all of this humiliation and pain without speaking or fighting back (1 Peter 2:18ff.).
His submission was not a sign of weakness; it was a sign of strength.
Crucifixion was the most shameful and painful way to execute a criminal. Jesus did not simply die; He died “even the death of a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Roman citizens ordinarily were not crucified. In fact, crucifixion was never mentioned in polite society, so degrading was this form of capital punishment.
Jesus was led outside the city to the place of execution (Heb. 13:12–13). It was required that the prisoner carry his own cross (or at least the crossbeam), and that he wear a placard around his neck announcing his crime. That placard was then hung over his head on the cross for all to see.
There was to be no delay in this execution. The Passover was about to be celebrated, and the Jewish leaders did not want their holy day desecrated by the dead bodies of criminals (John 19:31). In order to hasten the procession, the soldiers drafted a visitor to Jerusalem, Simon from Cyrene. He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and now he was humiliated by being forced to carry the cross of an unknown criminal! Roman soldiers had the authority to draft citizens (Matt. 5:41).
Jesus was not executed in a quiet building, away from the city’s noise and activity. He was executed on a public highway, on a day when perhaps hundreds of people were traveling. The fact that His indictment was written in three languages—Greek, Hebrew, and Latin—indicates that a cosmopolitan crowd passed by Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” This in itself was humiliating, for the passers-by could stare and shout bitter mockery at the victims. Again, this mockery from the crowd had been predicted (Ps. 22:6–8).
It was bad enough that the common rabble mocked Him, but even the Jewish leaders joined the attack. They reminded Him of His promise to rebuild the temple in three days (Matt. 26:61; John 2:19). “If You can do that, You can come down from the cross and prove to us that You are God’s Son!” In reality, it was the fact that He stayed on the cross that proved His divine sonship. The Jewish rulers mocked His claim to be the Savior. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself”.
Yes, He had saved others. But if He saved Himself, then nobody else could be saved! He did not come to save His life, but to give it as a ransom for sinners. Jesus, who knew no sin, took on the sins of the world. God can no longer look upon His Son because God cannot be where sin is. That’s why hymn writers compose songs that relay the message, “And He died alone, for you and me…”
But that is not the end of this message of Truth! The salvation story of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord does not end here. It is the beginning of eternal life for all who truly believe.
Do I really believe that what I believe is really real?
Can we pause and let the depth of God’s love for us overwhelm our being?
Can we now get up and wake up from our complacency and selfishness to begin to love like Jesus?
Let us begin this day with asking God what HE wants and then resolutely do what He asks.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
By Your power working in and through me, I believe.
In Jesus Name, Amen.